Reading to my little one before bed continues to be one of my favorite things about being a parent. If you’re looking to beef up your own collection, or need to find a great gift for a lucky kiddo, this list will give you somewhere to start. Some of the books that I recommend for the littlest kids are also great for older kids once they start reading (especially the Mo Willems books).

One final note: I didn’t include any Dr. Seuss books, because those are just a given! Especially Yertle the Turtle, The Sleep Book, and The Sneeches. (Don’t look now, but I just snuck three more books in!).

10 Favorite Picture Books // Ages 1-3

  • BabyLit books // Wonderful primers on numbers, colors, weather, opposites, and other basic concepts, all based on literary classics and adorably illustrated.
  • Elephant & Piggie books, Pigeon books, Knuffle Bunny books // Lovable characters (like a grumpy pigeon), funny situations (like playing catch with a snake), and important lessons (like outgrowing old toys) make these totally addictive and fun for both kids and parents.
  • Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site // For any kiddo going through the inevitable truck phase, this will surely please.
  • No, David! // A silly book about unconditional love that will have everyone giggling.
  • Edgar Gets Ready for Bed // Sweet bedtime book based on Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.”
  • I Want My Hat Back & This is Not My Hat // Hilarious (though slightly morbid) stories of lost hats, and the animals who get them back.
  • Sam and Dave Dig a Hole // Exasperating and adorable, this one will have you craving chocolate milk and animal cookies.
  • Press Here // An interactive book that lets kids move dots around the pages in fun ways.
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? // The classic never disappoints, and is great to revisit with a beginning reader.
  • Mouse Mess // One of our family favorites about a mouse who ransacks the kitchen in the middle of the night and then bails. The beautiful illustrations really make this one.

10 Favorite Picture Books // Ages 3-5

5 Favorite Chapter Books for Reading Aloud to Pre-Readers

  • The Phantom Tollbooth // One of my favorite books from childhood, and it really stands up today. My son loved all of the characters, even though when we read it he was too young to understand everything. Can’t wait to revisit it again with him!
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe // A classic for a reason, this one had my son rapt until the end.
  • Charlotte’s Web // Sad but sweet story that continues to help kids learn about death and moving on.
  • Matilda // Hands down, probably the most fun I’ve had reading to my son. A perfect, silly, hilarious, mischievous book.
  • The Boxcar Children // I admit, I found this a little bit bland, but my son absolutely loved it and begged me to read it. Something about kids on their own, finding spoons in junk yards and making their own swimming pool really hits the spot.

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